Who has your best interest in mind?
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.”Walt Witman
First off, in a perfect world, there would be no difference, and with interchangeable names on business cards, there might not be. I believe the difference is in the level of care and desire to be a teacher and not just make a sale.
What’s the Difference Between a Solar Salesman and a Solar Consultant?
When you’re deciding to purchase solar, it’s important that the person you’re dealing with has a desire to teach you the things that you might not even ask. During a typical solar discovery call, the consultant/salesperson has many chances to help educate prospective consumers on how a system works and what to expect. They can also insert nuggets of information learned along the way. A systematic approach to educating the buyer is necessary to ensure nothing is overlooked.
When your consultant takes the time to educate you not only on what you ask but also on the things you might not even think to ask, it does two things. First, it increases your understanding of the product and your comfort with the decision you made. And second, it arms you with information to help you share with others and better educate friends and family members who might one day become referral clients as well. Any consultant who doesn’t educate enough about the process, technology, benefits, and limitations of going solar is doing a disservice to themselves and the customer.
A satisfied customer might become your biggest source of referral because they are excited about a decision that they made that has financial and environmental benefits to the community they live in. Perhaps they are a schoolteacher with an extensive network of co-workers and parents who might benefit from learning more about solar. Or perhaps they’re a real estate agent who would like to better answer questions about what solar might offer their clients. No matter who they are and what their sphere of influence might be, arming them with the ability to communicate their decision reinforces their pride in making that choice and helps give them the tools to inform other like-minded friends and colleagues they may know.
What to Look for in Your Solar Consultant
Below is a list of attributes that I believe all the greatest salespeople and consultants have:
They Have Passion for What They Sell
You want to work with someone who believes in their product and would own what they sell. They should have already sold to qualified friends and family. If you sense hesitation in the salesperson, often it’s because something is not congruent with their ethics, morals, or self-justification. Perhaps the price is too high. Perhaps they know of a problem that their company has not addressed. Or perhaps they simply don’t believe in what they sell. Whatever the reason, if they lack passion and are hesitant in their proposal, it’s important to probe further and figure out why.
They Are Customer Service Focused
We all want a good deal when we can get it. We all work hard for what we have and expect investments to perform as needed for a long time. However, sometimes price shouldn’t be the most important factor in your decision. I’m sure you can think back to a time when you thought you were getting an amazing deal, and it turned out to be a lemon. Sometimes, quality costs more, and sometimes it doesn’t. Every product is unique, as is every company you purchase from. The one consistent thing that every salesperson offers is the ability to follow up after a sale and really go the extra mile to make a customer feel satisfied. No matter how busy they might be, they can always email, text, or call. With solar keeping you up to date on the progress of the project and asking if you have questions separates the good salesperson from the great one. It doesn’t matter if you are going out to eat, buying a shirt, or negotiating the price of a car, customer service matters. Everyone wants to be treated in a way that makes them feel valued. If your solar agent doesn’t give you the attention you feel you deserve and can’t explain why, it’s time to find a new one.
They Have a Process That Guides Every Sale
As a solar consultant myself, I try to have a similar sales process for every single client. Now, this does not mean that I don’t address their specific concerns or create bespoke solutions. What this means is that there is a logical progression from the first time we meet, either in person or remotely until we have installed their solar and beyond. I do this because I want to make sure I have given them all the information I have available. Too often, salespeople skip around in the sales process and forget important information that might better inform their customers. Part of my process is the use of a slide deck to ensure consistency. I don’t want to miss a thing, and it’s important you understand the process. If you're working with someone who isn’t using a slide deck to visually show you important information and talking points, I would consider looking for a more organized person to work with.
They Provide All Promises in Writing
This point is very important because there are lots of details and points with solar that require crystal clarity. Your sales agent should provide you with all promises in writing and should reiterate everything that was written. While this might take a few more moments, I think it’s important to review what they discussed and promised together before closing the deal. No customer wants to feel buyer’s remorse, and no consultant wants unsatisfied customers.
Bottom line, if it’s not written, it isn’t real!
They Take Responsibility for Words and Actions
Your consultant should take responsibility for everything that they say or do. While solar projects are construction and often meet untimely delays, work with someone who keeps you informed along the way. If delays occur, they should help you understand why it might take longer than you expected. If they don’t have an answer to a question you ask, they should let you know up front and promise to get back to you quickly with an answer. One of the rarest and most admired traits I see in people is the ability to accept responsibility for mistakes and not pass the buck. It’s human nature not to want to hurt your own pride, but it’s such a breath of fresh air to encounter someone who takes it on the chin rather than blame some nameless, faceless third party who can’t defend themselves.
What should you look for in the company you do business with?
Just as important as who you do business with is the company behind them. Even the best salesperson can have limitations because of company rules or culture. While a small mom and pop organization might do a great job of providing a sense of comfort being just down the road, the downside is that they might not negotiate the type of volume-based prices that the larger providers can offer. Also, will they be around in 15 years to honor the warranty that they offer you today?
I am proud to be an independent solar consultant for one of the largest and fastest-growing solar companies in the US. One reason is that I want access to the highest quality goods at the lowest possible pricing to save customers’ money. That can only be done by working with a company that purchases thousands of units directly from the manufacturer. As a consultant, you want both tools and structure, plus autonomy and flexibility for clients. For me, that’s working around busy schedules and meeting with people remotely, using the most advanced satellite imaging. I have also met people who prefer to only meet face to face, and for them, a solar rep down the street might be the right answer.
No matter what company you decide to work with, here are the important attributes it must possess:
• Proven track record
• Better Business Bureau Accredited
• More positive reviews than negative ones (I always check out the profiles of people who leave negative reviews and sometimes that’s more telling than the review they left)
• Warranty available (sometimes, they’re included and sometimes, you can purchase it for a fee. Either is fine, as it shows they stand behind their work)
• Works with multiple manufacturers to give customers choices
• Prioritizes your needs above their profit
This simple list allows you to narrow down potential solar installers and discover who your best options are. Just remember, no matter who you decide to work with, you can feel proud knowing you are supporting one of America’s fastest growing industries, creating hundreds of new jobs every single day!
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Jon Nelsen | Solar Consultant